- The Washington Times - Friday, August 10, 2001

Having established the standard for the "pony car" in the 1960s, Mustang continues today as its most popular form. While its performance may not exceed that of its chief rival the Camaro, its sales certainly do. If General Motors indeed surrenders the pony car battle by killing off Camaro/Firebird as is planned, Mustang sales can only increase.

Ford hasn't done much with Mustang for 2001. A few interior enhancements such as a new center console, improved cup holders and tissue holder sum up the changes. A six-disc in-dash CD player is now available with the optional Mach 460 audio system. Fans of high performance should be thrilled with the return of the limited-edition SVT Cobra to the Mustang lineup after a short sabbatical last year. All in all, it's business as usual for the 2001 Mustang.

Offered in base, GT and Cobra versions, Mustang can be either a coupe or two-door convertible. The base engine is a 190-horsepower, 3.8-liter V-6. It, as with all three engine choices, is tied to a five-speed manual transmission. A four-speed automatic is optional in the base and GT models. When armed with the V-6, the Mustang is a fun-to-drive performer that is easier on fuel than the V-8s and less costly to insure.

A 4.6-liter V-8 powers the GT. It delivers 260 horsepower and 302 foot-pounds of peak torque. From rest to 60 miles-per-hour in the GT requires about seven seconds. The big daddy of Mustang engines is the 320-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 breathing fire under the hood of the Cobra. Producing 317 foot-pounds of torque, it can catapult the Cobra from zero to 60 mph in about six seconds. My most recent Mustang was a Cobra convertible.

As the horsepower increases from engine to engine, so does fuel consumption; but not as much as you might think. Whereas the base version convertible with its V-6 earns an Environmental Protection Agency rating of 17 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway, the Cobra with its beefed up V-8 falls to 17 in city driving and 24 on the highway.

Both GT and Cobra have 17-inch wheels and anti-lock brakes. Cobra also has traction control (optional on GT) and an independent rear suspension rather than the solid axle found on the base and GT.

With a rear seat virtually unsuitable for passenger conveyance, the Mustang convertible is really a two-seater.

Mustang deserves its icon status. It has steadily evolved from a rather simple 2+2, to the rather sophisticated performer it is today. While its V-6 equipped model is most popular, its V-8 versions are what seizes the attention of the boy racer in all of us. The pony car will live or die with the Mustang.

Base price of the base Mustang convertible is $22,220. The Cobra convertible goes for $32,605. Standard features in the Cobra not yet mentioned include leather/cloth upholstery with the Cobra logo, Mach AM/FM/CD with in-dash six-disc player audio system, leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, air conditioning, six-way power driver's seat, power windows/door locks and keyless remote entry. Adding the $600 delivery charge brought the price as tested to $33,205.

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